Monte Carlo Pub owner Jeff Kohler holds up a T-shirt honoring the 34 years the bar’s been in business in Kent along West Meeker Street. STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter

Monte Carlo Pub owner Jeff Kohler holds up a T-shirt honoring the 34 years the bar’s been in business in Kent along West Meeker Street. STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter

Last call: Monte Carlo Pub closing in Kent after 34 years

Original owner heads into retirement as bar celebrates final weekend; apartments coming to site

After 34 years of serving drinks in Kent, it’s last call this weekend at Monte Carlo Pub.

The bar, 1617 W. Meeker St., is closing after owner Jeff Kohler, 68, heading into retirement, sold the property to a developer who plans to build apartments on the site combined with the land just west of the pub, which also was purchased.

The Last Call Party is from noon to 2 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 16. The official final day is Dec. 17 when regular customers will close it down. The pub has survived for decades with its friendly atmosphere, pool tables, dart boards, food and pull-tabs.

“A guy came in here one day and talked to me and offered a lot of money for the property,” Kohler said as he sat at a corner table Monday inside the 3,990-square-foot pub. “The sum was enough for what I wanted for the property and building.”

Kohler said he was first approached about selling the property nearly two years ago. The closing took longer than expected.

“They are building apartments just like across the street,” Kohler said.

Across the street are the Midtown 64 Apartments, which opened in 2020. Just west are the Ethos Apartments, built on the former par 3 golf course sold by the city for $10 million to a developer in 2017, and that sit across from the Riverbend 18-hole course and clubhouse.

“I say within five years this whole (north) side of Meeker will be apartments all the way to DSHS,” Kohler said about the state Department of Social and Health Services office at 1313 W. Meeker St. “And on the other side of (Highway) 167 there’s two big apartments.”

Those complexes are the Madison Plaza Apartments (corner of Madison and West Meeker) that opened in 2022. Ovation at Meeker senior living apartments opened in the past year at 623 W. Meeker St.

Pub history

The numerous apartment complexes are a completely different look from when Kohler and two partners opened the Monte Carlo in 1989.

“Back in the day there were still pheasants flying across this strip,” Kohler said of the apartments that sit on what used to be vacant land. “Kent Valley was all farm fields.”

Prior to Monte Carlo, there had been a couple of other bars at the site, including a biker bar, and before that a strip club, Kohler said about the building constructed in 1966.

Kohler joined twin brothers Jim and Jay Kent as the original owners of Monte Carlo. The brothers thought Monte Carlo was a catchy name for a bar with pull-tabs and they liked to go to Las Vegas a lot to gamble, Kohler said about how the pub got its name.

Kohler moved to Kent in 1987 to help the brothers open a few Rocky Mountain sheepskin stores, which the brothers later sold. Kohler managed FX McRory’s bar and restaurant in Pioneer Square in Seattle for a couple of years, but began managing Monte Carlo after the purchase. In a few years, Kohler bought out the brothers and later purchased the property from the wives of the two brothers after they went through divorces.

“I figured five or six years and move on to something else,” Kohler said about how long he expected to own Monte Carlo and keep it in business. “Once I paid it off, it was a lot easier.”

Business stayed steady over the decades.

“One of the main things I still get a chuckle out of is when we bought the bar, 21-year-old kids were coming in here, when I was 34. Now their kids turned 21.”

Kohler said that’s about 15 or 20 people who have been coming to the pub since the early days.

“It’s definitely a family bar,” Kohler said. “It’s like ‘Cheers,’ everybody knows everybody.”

The pub employs about 10 people. Bartender Amie Dunaway has worked nearly 25 years at Monte Carlo. Sisters Lynette and Cat Ross have worked as bartenders for five years or so.

Nobody wishes the bar was closing.

“Just sad because the customers turn into friends and family,” Cat Ross said about the closing. “We celebrate all the holidays together, so it’s going to be sad.”

Ross said there are lots of parties at the pub, even memorial services for customers.

“It’s laid back but it’s fun,” she said. “We’re into sports a lot, it’s more family like ‘Cheers’ the bar.”

Kohler certainly has mixed emotions about closing.

“It hasn’t sunk in,” he said. “I’ve been coming here every day for 34 years and all of it sudden it will stop. It’s definitely going to be different. …I’ll miss my bartenders, I see them everyday.”

He won’t miss the problems brought on in recent years by the homeless, including just the other day a rock thrown through the window next to the entry door. The window remains cracked since it’s the pub’s final days.

“Kent’s getting tougher with all the homeless stealing stuff,” Kohler said. “We put lights outside and they steal them, the day-to-day stuff I won’t miss.”

He plans to retire in Kent, do a lot of camping and travel to see friends back in Nebraska. He might move to Arizona, although he enjoys temperatures here that typically are between 40 and 80 degrees.

He definitely will miss the customers.

“I’m so thankful I’ve had such a good clientele over the years. …and they help you when you need it. It’s more like a big extended family than anything, that’s going to be the hard part.”

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A souvenir T-shirt. STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter

A souvenir T-shirt. STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter

The back of the Monte Carlo Pub T-shirt lists names of the owner and current employees. STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter

The back of the Monte Carlo Pub T-shirt lists names of the owner and current employees. STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter

Owner Jeff Kohler outside the Monte Carlo Pub. STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter

Owner Jeff Kohler outside the Monte Carlo Pub. STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter

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